To counteract the effects of perinatal hypoxia in piglets, the oral administration of caffeine to sows with induced parturition was evaluated. On day 113 of gestation 9 sows received 27 mg/kg body weight (BW) of caffeine mixed with 200 g of standard diet. The same amount of feed without the addition of caffeine was administered to 9 control sows. Additionally, on day 113 of gestation, all sows were treated by two injections in the perianal area of 1 mg of alfaprostol (at 8:00 am and 14:00 pm), and on the morning of farrowing by 14 IU of oxytocin in the perianal area. Caffeine did not affect BW of piglets and size of litters; however piglets from treated sows showed a higher capacity to adapt to extra-uterine life. Particularly, they showed a greater thermoregulatory ability (P<0.001) and a higher percentage of viability score >7 compared to piglets from control sows (92% vs. 75%, respectively; P<0.030). Caffeine furthermore reduced the frequency of high serum biopterin values (480 nmol/L) in piglets born from treated sows (P<0.001). In conclusion, the caffeine orally administered to sows with induced parturition showed a protective effect on the consequences of neonatal hypoxia in tissue ischemia–reperfusion injury in piglets.
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